Connacht captain John Muldoon says qualification for the new European Rugby Champions Cup is their goal for the upcoming season.
Pat Lam’s side will need to finish in the top seven of the Pro 12 or via a play-off if they end up eighth or ninth in the table to make it into the new-look elite European club competition.
The 31-year-old Galway man has been reappointed as skipper for the season and, while they face Bayonne, La Rochelle and Exeter in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, the Champions Cup is where they want to be.
“Our plan is to be in the top tier of Europe,” Muldoon, who has made 222 appearances for the province, told RTÉ Sport.
“We’ve a couple of good fixtures in the Challenge Cup but ultimately we want to dine at the top table. It’s a great competition where we’ve had, I won’t say great success, but mild success over the last couple of years (in the Heineken Cup).
Connacht failed to make the quarter-finals in their three Heineken Cup campaigns but recorded profile-boosting wins against Harlequins and Toulouse.
“The players and the fans have bought into it massively," said Muldoon.
"That’s where we want to be. That’ll be our ultimate goal to try and get back in there. It won’t be easy but it certainly a great target for us.
“The fact that we can get there on merit as opposed to other years is a great incentive for us.”
Muldoon has three Ireland caps to his name, the last coming in 2010, but the back rower does not expect to add to that tally any time soon.
“Being honest, I don’t think so," he said.
"I haven’t been involved in a squad since Joe [Schmidt] took over. I’m just concentrating with playing with Connacht.
“I’m 31 years of age and there’s a lot of young guys coming through. If I’m asked, of course, I’d step up, but I don’t think I’m really in his plans.”
Connacht open their Guinness PRO12 campaign at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons on 6 September and host La Rochelle at the Sportsground on 18 October in their first Challenge Cup fixture.